As planned, last week I drove to and from the hospital each day, and what a difference it made. My appointment time is 3.30pm, right at the hottest part of the day, and that as much as anything else was contributing to the amount of energy drained away, waiting for buses out in the sun, walking from one bus stop to another and from the bus stop to the hospital, all made for a tiring time. By contrast, the car journey starts a couple of minutes from my home and ends a similar distance from the main entrance to the hospital. There is an underground car park, so that the car stays reasonably cool while parked, and the bulk of the time there and back is with the benefit of air conditioning. Friday came, and I still felt fresh and full of energy. Yesterday, I reached a significant milestone; I had my 19th session of radiotherapy from a total of 38, so today I am on the home run. The finishing tape is still four weeks away, but it feels really goos to have half of my treatment behind me. The waiting areahas become quite a socila club, with the same faces in evidence every day, especially Miguel, José and the two Juans along with their wives. I have now been accepted into the circle and am included in the conversations, even though I may not understand all of it. But, oh what a laugh we had yesterday. We each have a small treatment card which we post through the door into the treatment area when we arrive, so that the radiotherapists know who is outside and can call people in in the order that they wish. Yesterday, one of the therapists stepped into the waiting area, held up a card which to my embarrassment, I immeditaley recognised and politely enquired whom it belonged to. To my shame I had to hold up my hand; busily chatting as I approached the letter box, I had calmly dropped my car park ticket through the door.
I chose to travel to and from the hospital in Málaga by public transport, not because I love buses per se, but because it is clearly so much cheaper than driving; or so I thought. Wednesday, I was going by car anyway and I switched on my satnav, as much to recharge the battery as anything. However, as I had entered the details into its system of the urban and rural fuel consumption as declared in my car’s owners’ manual, and the current price of diesel down here, the machine quietly monitored the distance travelled and worked out the round trip journey cost. It was an eye-opener. Firstly, the actual distance is slightly less than I had allowed for, but more importantly, I use a lot less fuel than I imagined. The result? It cost me 9.60€ in fuel and 2.30€ for the car park, so let’s call it 12€ in total. By bus, as I also have to get a snack in Málaga, it sets me back about 14.50€, and indeed, 4 or 5 euros more if I have to get a taxi back down to the bus station to be sure of making it in time to catch the 5 o’clock bus. So armed with that information, I have switched my strategy; henceforth, I shall drive to the hospital except when I can’t be bothered to do so. Only then will I go to the expense of the bus. Not only will I save money, I save time too. Public transport soaks up seven and a half hours of my day. Driving takes only three hours including the time at the hospital.
For the first time in perhaps fifteen years the weekend has become something that I can positively enjoy. The reason is simple; my weekday life revolves almost entirely around my radiotherapy. From Monday to Friday each week I have an appointment at half past three at the University Hospital in Málaga. This involves a round trip of 130 kilometres, which even with a diesel car amounts to an awful lot of fuel, so I am happy that the timing of the appointment allows me to travel in and out by bus. However, the timetables of buses from here to Nerja and from Nerja to Málaga make for a long day. Leaving the house at 11.20, I catch the 11.30 bus to Nerja. This enables me to take the 12.10 bus from Nerja, arriving in Málaga at 1.30 with time for a spot of lunch before heading on up to the hospital. Treatment, when called through, takes no more than five or six minutes, and then it’s back down to the city centre, on to Nerja, up to the village and home towards seven o’clock. The hospital itself is becoming a kind of club, as the same people are in the waiting area every day, and so we greet each other cheerily as we arrive and wave a friendly “Hasta mañana!” to everyone on the way out. In between times, I am privileged to have a crash course in listening to and learning to understand spoken Andalucian Spanish as people discuss their symptoms, treatments and a whole host of other things. Given that I have been taught Spanish as spoken in Madrid, and that the variant spoken here in the village is almost totally incomprehensible, this is an extremely useful learning environment. And, as people assured me would be the case, now that it has begun treatment is proceeding apace; already 20% is behind me.
Back in February coming back from NZ, we arrived in Hong Kong after a ten hour flight from Auckland, facing a four hour layover before the thirteen hour onward flight to London. We settled into the Cathay Pacific lounge and as boarding time drew near started checking the departures screen. Up came our flight, due to board in 45 minutes. Then at 40 minutes it changed; departure now from a different gate and delayed by 90 minutes. It was like getting kicked in the stomach. We just wanted to get on board and settle down to try and sleep.
I had a similar feeling here last week. Three weeks ago I had the final scan needed to plan the detail of my treatment, and was told I would be called within a couple of weeks. As last week unrolled it became increasingly clear that the phone call was not coming as quickly as I expected. By the weekend I felt really down - harto, as we say in Spanish. This has been with me since last November, and I just want the radiotherapy behind me so that I can get on with my life.
Today the call came. I report tomorrow evening at eight o'clock to start the treatment. I go back every day, Monday to Friday, for the next seven and a half weeks - a total of 38 doses. Hopefully, I'll find the time to keep up to speed with this blog. If not, I apologize now, and I'll see you at the end of August!